This was his fault and he knew that. He should have been faster, stronger, smarter, something, anything to make sure they were never in this situation to begin with, much less let it progress to this point. There was a man standing between him and Hank, both of them handcuffed to metal chairs. The man was saying.... something, gesturing occasionally with the gun in his left hand, but Connor's audio units had been taken offline by the explosion at the crime scene... three hours ago, if his internal clock was still correct. (At least Connor hadn't gone into standby, even if the EMP that came on the tail of the explosion had paralyzed him.) Connor's lip-reading program wasn't one hundred percent accurate, and he only caught bits of Hank's reply.
Don't know.... eyewear(?).... you.... crazy.... don't.... idiot.
The man (his facial recognition program relied on goddamn network connections, which felt like an oversight on Cyberlife's part) lashed out with the knife in his right hand, digging the blade (his object identification system informed him it was a 22-blade scalpel, which was just so helpful, really) into Hank's right thigh and tearing it out at a diagonal. Hank made this choked little noise that Connor didn't need a lip-reading program for, and Connor—
“No, please! Please! Don't, don't hurt him, please! I- take me, instead! Take- hurt me instead, just please don't do this, don't hurt my dad, please!” Hank lunged against his restraints, snarling, as the man [Caucasian male, grey eyes, brown hair, clean-shaven, roughly 40 years old, 6'4”, physically fit, thirium stains of various age on both hands, left-handed, armed and dangerous, seems to believe we have information of some kind] turned, a grin curling his mouth. The man raised the gun—
Connor groaned, error messages flaring bright across his vision. The bullet had lodged in the upper right quadrant of his titanium-steel frame—his “bones” according to Hank—and stopped there, roughly in the same spot where a human's pectoral muscle met the deltoid. The wound wasn't bleeding too much, but the pressure sensors in his entire right arm and half his upper chest were simply.... gone. He couldn't so much as twitch his fingers in that hand anymore. Everything went a little fuzzy after that, but when he came to, they were in a different location. The man was gone, leaving him and Hank alone with their injuries in an 8ft by 8ft by 8ft metal box. Connor assessed Hank's health, pleased that there were no further injuries besides the stab wound. His audio units were still muffled, but at least he could hear a little bit now.
Connor was no longer sure how long they had been here. He'd spent a lot of time in the Zen Garden, ripping up all the flowers, planting larkspur and bright scarlet geranium around his graves, replacing the roses with delphinium and Queen Anne's lace and honeysuckle. The man—his name was Sergei, apparently—had surprisingly honored Connor's wishes and not hurt Hank again, but Connor had received quite a bit of damage in his stead. There were deep burns all over his chassis, multiple gunshot wounds, none of which were fatal but all of them were excruciatingly painful. His left arm had been ripped off at the elbow, steadily oozing thirium. And then came the.... day? hour? when Sergei decided to try something “a bit more intense”. Connor's mouth was pried open, a metal funnel shoved between his teeth as Sergei came toward him with a sick grin, a red hot bucket of something throwing thick clouds of steam in the dim light. His forensic analysis had just enough time to identify the substance as molten glass before his world narrowed to complete, blinding agony.
RK800 313-248-317-52 came online to the screeching of a hundred error messages. It tried to take a breath, but [FOREIGN OBSTRUCTION DETECTED, CONTAMINANT DETECTED, SEEK A CYBERLIFE REPAIR FACILITY FOR ASSISTANCE] it was unable to even move it's jaw or lips. There were error messages for it's throat and artificial stomach as well. It's tongue was basically a chunk of useless slag and there were severe contact burns on its lips, chin, neck, and splatters on it's chest. The edges of it's nostrils were similarly corrupted, and it was missing a left arm and both legs (a memory file clip tried to load, a sense of tearing breaking burning, and then nothing, but it
he closed the file before anything else came through), the remaining stumps sluggishly dripping bright blue on the dirty floor. There was a man in front of it, [Caucasian male, blue eyes, grey hair, 6'3”, roughly 55 years old, bearded, heavyset, STABBING INJURY TO RIGHT OUTER THIGH DETECTED, SEEK MEDICAL ASSISTANCE, apparent friendly disposition toward this unit] trying to speak to it, but it's audio units were only functioning at 65%—roughly analogous to moderate hearing impairment in humans—and it could only understand a few words. It understood enough that it knew the man was trying to reassure it, useless as that was. The man inched towards it, careful of his injury, and wrapped his arms around it's torso, one hand gently smoothing it's hair. The uncompleted task blinked at it infuriatingly [STABBING INJURY DETECTED, SEEK MEDICAL ASSISTANCE] and it decided to follow the directive. Hacking the nearest network signal was pathetically easy for it's advanced systems, and it wondered why it hadn't done this before. [SENDING ON ALL AVAILABLE CHANNELS: AMBULANCE NEEDED FOR] it carefully scoured it's memory banks [ANDERSON, HENRY, LT. PATIENT HAS A STABBING INJURY TO UPPER RIGHT THIGH. BE ADVISED: HOSTILE ON SITE, ARMED AND DANGEROUS] The task lit blue briefly and closed, and if it was capable, it would have breathed a sigh of relief. Now all it had to do was wait.
Sergei dragged them out again, and Connor seriously considered escaping to the Zen Garden program and locking himself inside. The lack of ventilation was causing his “lungs” to constrict and expand painfully, searching for air that would not come, and his thirium pump was struggling to beat regularly with both the severe thirium loss and lack of oxygen. His central processor was swamped with so many errors that he was effectively blind, and he was lightheaded from all the damage he'd sustained plus thirium deprivation and his steadily rising internal temperature. Sergei took the scalpel he'd stabbed Hank with—still covered in flakes of dried blood—and started carving into Connor's chest plate. A door to Connor's left slammed open, Josh appearing in the opening with something in his hands. The bright flare of a muzzle flash startled Connor briefly, and then there was warmth splattering on his face, Sergei falling almost in slow motion, and Connor struggled not to lose himself again. Josh scrambled towards him, flinging the gun aside in his haste. Josh dropped to his knees in front of him, cupping Connor's face with gentle, warm hands. Connor finally, finally let the tears fall. Josh managed a watery smile, saying something that Connor didn't need to hear to understand. (He had traced those lips countless times, in awe that whatever gods were up there had allowed him this; he had chased the addicting heat of that perfect mouth in the dark, at sunrise, in a crowd. He would always know the way words fit in Josh's lips, the way they rolled off his tongue, from behind his teeth.) He'd heard those words often enough, when he woke from nightmares trembling, cradled in his lover's arms with a tenderness that sometimes made him cry. “It's alright,” Josh said, wiping at Connor's tears with his thumbs. “It's alright, Connie, baby, I've got you. You don't have to be strong anymore, I've got you, you're safe with me. We're safe as houses, sweetheart, I promise.” And Connor—
He slumped forward into a waiting embrace, the last thing filtering through his quickly fading consciousness Josh screaming for North, for an ambulance, for a medic, a technician, anyone, please— Connor wondered if he might die here, and thought it wouldn't be too bad of a way to go, all things considered.
Connor woke up in their shared apartment, on the bed, with Josh next to him, obsessively running his fingers through Connor's hair. Sumo was draped across Connor's feet—oh thank rA9, he had feet again—snoring away. Everything was muffled though, like trying to hear with headphones on, and he saw the last error message blinking merrily away [AUDIO UNIT L52 AND R52 FUNCTIONING AT 65% CAPACITY, SEEK A CYBERLIFE REPAIR FACILITY FOR ASSISTANCE] in the corner of his vision. He frowned, tapping Josh's arm and signing hospital no fix hear why?
Josh sighed, signing back can't, you parts special, 60 ear damage bad, can't use. Sorry. N-O-R-T-H try best her.
OK. Thank you. Connor offered his hand for an interface, relieved when Josh grabbed it like a lifeline.
“You're okay, though? Nothing hurts or anything?”
“No, but god, I thought.... I thought I was going to die in there, honey, I really....” he retreated a little from the interface, tears once again pearling on his lashes. Josh sent a frisson of warmth across the connection, scooping Connor into his arms easily and delivering him safely into the blanket nest arranged on their closet floor. They tangled together, pressing kisses between them like promises, like Peruvian lily buds in the books they debated over. They clung to each other, pale bruises forming beneath hungry grasping palms, as if they could seal a thousand I love you's and you are not allowed to die on me's into their souls. Connor hooked his ankles around Josh's waist, drawing him down, and thought wildly, god have mercy on me, but if you ever take this man from me, I will find a way to kill you and bring him back. He decided that he'd look into how soon after a traumatic experience was too soon to ask someone to marry you later, drifting into the dark content with the knowledge that he was safe as houses here.